Your name: Kieu Tran (She/Her)

Where you live: Oakland, CA

What you do: I’m a sculptor that works primarily with clay.

Can you tell us a little about your journey of becoming an artist?

I took a scenic route, but every stage was essential. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in art history from UCLA in 2012 and also studied art history while living in Italy and Germany, but was not making any art myself. I initially wanted to work in a museum or gallery, but struggled to find a job in the arts post graduation. Intrigued by Silicon Valley, I learned to code in 2014 and quickly became a software engineer within the year. I interned with a tech company in Budapest for 6 months and eventually became a full-time engineer back home in Oakland, CA. I also developed a serious ceramic art practice around the same time alongside my tech career. Clay became my escape and a form of therapy for me to deal with the challenges of being a software engineer.

In January of 2019, I took a 3 month sabbatical from work and did a 3 month intensive pottery program in Italy which changed my life. This chance to fully throw myself into the rhythm of making with technical structure and rigor for a stretch of uninterrupted time under the beautiful Tuscan sun made me want a true creative career. When I returned from the residency, I rented my first private art studio and began making sculptures and realized I was always meant to be an artist. 

In January of 2021, I left tech to pursue my passion of becoming a full time artist and haven’t looked back since.

What project are you most proud of from 2022? Tell us about it. 

I spent a month in Gramolazzo, Italy(near Carrara) this summer to carve my first marble sculptures that were also my largest to date. I 3D scanned original works made in clay, digitally modified them to create a new work consisting of two marble sculptures. They were rough milled by a robot and I learned how to hand finish them in mere weeks. This whole process was new and challenging for me because it required me to quickly learn how to digitally model and also work with power tools. I met the most incredible artists from all over and from all disciplines. It was a very affirming and rewarding experience overall to expand my skill set and see what I could accomplish. I even cried tears of joy at one point in response to how beautiful I thought my work looked. Definitely the most memorable project of 2022 for me. 

You shared your wedding photos with us back in 2018, tell us about your wedding and how you and your partner made it feel special and reflect you as a couple.

We had our wedding at The Children’s Fairyland in Oakland. The venue is 10 acres of storybook sets and rides. This venue particularly appealed to us because we spent many years living around Lake Merritt and we are still very much children at heart, especially when we’re together. We wanted our guests, including our more traditional family members, to be able to access the joy of standing 3 feet tall. We just really wanted our wedding to be fun, and inspire a sense of childish wonder.

We leaned into the whimsical. We had theme park tickets printed with each guest’s name. They were handed out at the door to get everyone in the mood for some magic. We had a VW photobus, churro cart and glitter bar. 

I made 150 bud vases as wedding favors. Guests lined up to personally select their bud vase, each as unique as them. It was definitely one of the more rewarding aspects of our wedding for me to see this project finished. 

Where did you have your wedding? 

We had our ceremony at the Lake Merritt Bandstand and the reception at The Children’s Fairyland in Oakland.

What advice would you give other future brides for making their wedding fun and stress free?

Wedding planning will be undoubtedly stressful. I was never one to dream about my wedding, but I realized that there will likely never be a moment of more magnitude that commands the same attention, time and resources of your closest friends and family than your wedding. There's never going to be another event so equally fraught with stress and immense joy. The motions to plan the event, staying true to ourselves and our story, figuring out what’s important to each of our families, and getting help from our friends really set the tone for our union and established our support system for our next steps as husband and wife. Just remember when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’ll be worth it because it will truly be the most beautiful day of your lives, filled with immense love, intimacy, and fun.

Practical Advice

Set budgets. Figure out what’s most important to you and your families and try your best to compromise and prioritize accordingly. Create a joint email account for all wedding related correspondence. Having two sets of eyes on correspondence related to all your vendors will save a lot of headache. I would also advise hiring at least a day of wedding coordinator to make sure you don’t stress on your special day! Professionals will handle anything that can possibly go wrong the day of, and we definitely had some things go awry.

I would also recommend going on your honeymoon right away because we didn’t and it was a struggle to concentrate at work. Planning and enjoying your wedding is exhausting and I wish we had gone straight into our honeymoon to just enjoy each other and reflect more deeply on the experience. 

You chose to wear the Miranda Peep toe for your wedding. Why did you pick that style?

I just love the elegance of the Miranda and the peep toe is understated and sexy.

Shop the Miranda peep toe here, part of our in-stock collection. 

Not quite ready to take the plunge? Did you know you can order color swatches for 50 cents each. Bone, clay and pacific grey are our three best selling bridal colors. 


Anything else you want to share?

I have a solo show with Maybaum Gallery in SF from March 1-31, 2023. The artist reception is March 2nd, 5-7pm.